The Big Ten has a loaded Thursday night. There are only two games on the docket, but both are great matchups. Ohio State goes on the road to face Wisconsin and Iowa hosts Indiana. Both games have substantial postseason implications.
Let’s take a look at the schedule.
Game of the Day:
-No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes at No. 13 Wisconsin Badgers
- Time/TV: 7:00 PM ET (ESPN2)
- KenPom Spread: Wisconsin by 2
A little over a month ago, Wisconsin went on the road to tangle with Ohio State in a game that looked massive at the time. Both teams were coming off some recent success and were looking to elevate to the top tier of the Big Ten. Things ended with a lopsided Ohio State victory.
Things since then have been . . . unusual.
Ohio State immediately went on a COVID-19 pause and didn’t play against for nearly three weeks. Meanwhile, Wisconsin stumbled through December before rebounding for massive success in the New Year. The Buckeyes likewise returned from their pause and have gotten back on track, knocking off Northwestern at home on Sunday. The teams are now ranked in the top 20 and ready to tangle on Thursday night.
The game itself will likely be decided by what Ohio State can do against Johnny Davis. The Buckeyes have shown better defensive play this year, but enough to slow down a player like Davis? They did enough in the first meeting, holding Davis to 24 points and a 108 offensive rating. However, Davis is playing better and (arguably most importantly) so are his teammates. This will be quite a challenge, especially on the road.
Wisconsin also has a big challenge in slowing down EJ Liddell and Malaki Branham. The Badgers have enough size to clog the lane, but both have shown a lot of growth in recent weeks. In fact, Branham might be the key. Ohio State generally goes as he goes, as all the team’s losses have come when Branham has an offensive rating under 100.
Expect a physical fight. However, it seems like Wisconsin is playing better right now and will have a mental edge after the butt kicking in December.
- Pick: Wisconsin
- Time/TV: 9:00 PM ET (FS1)
- KenPom Spread: Iowa by 3
Like the early game, this one puts two teams together in really interesting spots. Indiana seemed to get the monkey off its back last week, breaking through and beating Ohio State and Minnesota in successive games. And, on the other side, Iowa is coming off a tough loss to Wisconsin after four straight wins. Both teams will be motivated to grab a win here, especially because the game looks so even heading into tip.
The two players to watch are Keegan Murray and Trayce Jackson-Davis. They’re All-American caliber players and have been fantastic all year. And neither team has a natural way to slow the other team’s star down. Murray is going to get his and Jackson-Davis will as well. That should make for a high flying game with plenty of scoring. The difference here will likely come from outside the arc, where the Hawkeyes thrive.
- Pick: Iowa